Five Sisters: The Langhornes of Virginia
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The beautiful Langhorne sisters lived at the pinnacle of society from the end of the Civil War through the Second World War. Born in Virginia to a family impoverished by the Civil War, Lizzie, Irene, Nancy, Phyllis, and Nora eventually made their way across two continents, leaving rich husbands, fame, adoration, and scandal in their wake.
At the center of the story is Nancy, who married Waldorf Astor, one of the richest men in the world. Heroic, hilarious, magnetically charming, and a bully, Nancy became Britain's first female MP. The beautiful Irene married Charles Dana Gibson and was the model for the Gibson Girl. Phyllis, the author's grandmother, married a famous economist, one of the architects of modern Europe. Author James Fox draws on the sisters' unpublished correspondence to construct an intimate and sweeping account of five extraordinary women at the highest reaches of society.
REGGIE BROOKS (1876-1945), Phyllis’s first husband; father of Peter and Winkie Brooks. WINKIE BROOKS (1910-1936), Phyllis’s second son with Reggie Brooks. WISSIE (PHYLLIS) ASTOR, later Countess of Ancaster (1909-1975), only daughter of Nancy and Waldorf. THE LANGHORNE FAMILY TREE Five Sisters 1 The Langhornes THE LANGHORNE SISTERS of Virginia were a phenomenon in America, in the South and then in the North, long before the third of Chillie Langhorne’s five daughters crossed
for the formal portraits, or standing modestly beside Waldorf, trimmed in sable stoles—it is hard to imagine the reckless lack of caution and irreverence with which she dealt with this world. It was this—Nancy’s performance—that had such a “volcanic” effect on the wooden conventions of English society of the time. She was disarming and direct to the point where she was branded “vulgar” and “preposterous.” One of Nancy’s comic routines, which shocked worthy guests, employed a set of large plastic
Souls’ style, using the word “deevy” for divine, and pronouncing everything “golden.” An observer described Nancy at a royal dinner: “She went over to Hatfield to meet the King & Queen. She behaved in the true manner of a red-hot Virginian republican for 2 hours on end conversing with His Majesty, imitating Margot & Ettie & all the rest & treating the King as a human being & making all the courtiers off their heads with anguish & anxiety. She made Hugh Cecil sit down with her on a window seat &
of 1908, Nancy was concerned and wondering what to do with Waldorf. “He wasn’t doing anything,” she recalled in her memoir. He was wasting what she considered “so much brilliance and capability.” Illness had now prevented him from riding and polo; he was “frustrated and annoyed” by his immobility. She decided that she couldn’t face the prospect of permanent, dual invalidism with him and went for advice to her friends Arthur Balfour and Lord Curzon. They suggested that Waldorf, a popular figure
that we shd. act as friends. I know now how matters stand & shall not misinterpret you again.” In reply, Phyllis wrote: Dear dear Mr. B. Brand, How can I not answer your letter? The thought that you should be suffering through fear of my not understanding anything you might have said or done tortures me also. I do, honestly, realize and understand so perfectly how you meant what you said to me, and anything further from my mind than thinking the less of you for it, could not be. How can I